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The NAACP's Legal Strategy against Segregated Education, 1925-1950

The NAACP's Legal Strategy against Segregated Education, 1925-1950

Mark V. Tushnet
Copyright Date: 1987
Pages: 264
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  • Book Info
    The NAACP's Legal Strategy against Segregated Education, 1925-1950
    Book Description:

    The NAACP's fight against segregated education--the first public interest litigation campaign--culminated in the 1954Browndecision. While touching on the general social, political, and economic climate in which the NAACP acted, Mark V. Tushnet emphasizes the internal workings of the organization as revealed in its own documents. He argues that the dedication and the political and legal skills of staff members such as Walter White, Charles Hamilton Houston, and Thurgood Marshall were responsible for the ultimate success of public interest law. This edition contains a new epilogue by the author that addresses general questions of litigation strategy, the persistent question of whether theBrowndecision mattered, and the legacy ofBrownthrough the Burger and Rehnquist courts.

    eISBN: 978-1-4696-1975-0
    Subjects: Political Science, Law, Education

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. xi-xvi)

    In 1896 the United States Supreme Court decidedPlessyv.Ferguson.¹ That case endorsed the idea that it was constitutionally permissible to maintain a regime of racial segregation if the services a state provided were equal. From the beginning black activists knew that “separate but equal” was a slogan that only thinly disguised the reality of the subordination of black to white. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, founded in 1909, took undermining the system of racial subordination as its goal from the outset.² Because subordination was linked to segregation, and segregation to the legal doctrine of...

  5. 1. Setting the Course: The Grant from the Garland Fund
    (pp. 1-20)

    The naacp was founded in 1909 by a biracial group desiring to counter an increase in white violence against blacks throughout the country. Its founders believed that existing tactics for black advancement neglected issues of civil and political rights and reflected too moderate a position on economic issues. In addition to conducting lobbying efforts and publicity campaigns, the naacp soon established a legal redress committee. Its legal activities included responses to white violence, such as legal defense and resistance to the extradition of blacks accused of interracial violence. Several cases supported by the naacp reached the Supreme Court, where they...

  6. 2. The Legal Background: From Margold to Houston
    (pp. 21-33)

    The state of the law of racial discrimination as it stood in 1930 conditioned the ways in which the naacp’s lawyers would choose to attack educational inequities in the 1930s. Their individual perspectives on the role of litigation as part of the black community’s political efforts also affected their decisions. After examining the legal background and the Margold Report, this chapter describes the role that race-consciousness played in the development of the legal staff. The next chapter examines the impact that the staff’s own views had on the shape of the litigation campaign.

    In 1890 the Louisiana legislature passed a...

  7. 3. The Influence of the Staff
    (pp. 34-48)

    When Houston became a member of the staff, the naacp had an employee whose primary duty was the conduct of litigation. But Houston was not just another employee, and his view of his role had a major effect on the developing campaign against school segregation. Between 1933 and 1950, the naacp’s legal staff handled three types of school desegregation suits: suits seeking the desegregation of public graduate and professional schools, suits seeking to equalize the salaries of black and white teachers, and suits occasioned by inequalities in the physical facilities at black and white elementary and secondary schools

    In mid-1935...

  8. 4. Thurgood Marshall and the Maryland Connection
    (pp. 49-69)

    The naacp’s early desegregation cases displayed all the variations on the tactical choices that Houston and Marshall had to make. Their first decisions had to be about remedy—to seek mandamus or injunctive relief—and about forum—to go into state or federal court. Those decisions were made in light of both legal analysis and staff needs.

    Initially, the choice between mandamus and injunction was framed along two dimensions. Mandamus was thought to be more appropriate for individual relief, injunctions more appropriate for class relief; mandamus was thought to be more appropriate for relief that would direct officials to take...

  9. 5. Securing the Precedents: Gaines and Alston
    (pp. 70-81)

    To understand the course of the litigation campaign, we must now examine what happened in the first salary and university cases to reach the federal appellate courts: a salary case from Norfolk, Virginia, and a university case from Missouri. At the time those two cases were initiated, there was no reason to single them out as likely to be particularly important. The naacp lawyers were doing no more than litigating the cases at the pace imposed by the litigants and the local courts; they were not selecting cases to pursue on the basis of any long-range strategy—except, of course,...

  10. 6. The Campaign in the 1940s: Contingencies, Adaptations, and the Problem of Staff
    (pp. 82-104)

    Favorable appellate decisions are only an intermediate stage of a litigation campaign. AsGainesandAlstonindicate, implementing such decisions is often difficult even in the very cases in which the appellate victory was won.¹ It is even more difficult to use the appellate decisions as precedents to affect the behavior of those who were not a party to the initial lawsuit. The same contingencies that attended the initial litigation recur: plaintiffs are hard to find and, once found, can disrupt the negotiations that are an essential part of the use of precedents by accepting settlement offers for less than...

  11. 7. The Strategy of Delay and the Direct Attack on Segregation
    (pp. 105-137)

    The Margold Report had focused on the unequal expenditure of funds for black and white elementary and secondary schools. It had suggested that attacking unequal expenditures would destroy segregation directly, if the states chose to equalize spending by merging the systems, and indirectly, if the states were forced to bring the black separate schools up to the level of the white schools at so great a cost as to make segregation a fiscally intolerable policy. Yet through the 1940s the naacp’s national staff became involved in only a few cases involving inequality of facilities in elementary and secondary schools.


  12. 8. Conclusion: Some Lessons from the Campaign
    (pp. 138-166)

    The decision to attack segregation in elementary and secondary schools closed one era in the naacp’s attack on segregation. The naacp’s lawyers had learned how to organize complex litigation, and how to maintain central control while encouraging local support during the inevitably extended period before visible results were forthcoming. But their decision opened another era of litigation, during which the problems the naacp had earlier faced presented themselves in different forms.

    Because litigation is a social process, all litigation campaigns have elements in common. Before we consider several of the broader implications of the litigation effort from 1925 to 1950,...

  13. Notes
    (pp. 167-202)
  14. Bibliography
    (pp. 203-214)
  15. Index
    (pp. 215-222)